Australian Government releases talking set-top box

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Talking set-top box making digital TV a reality

Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, today announced an Australian first with the commercial release of talking set-top boxes to help people who are vision impaired make the switch to digital-only television.

“For the first time in Australia, vision impaired people will be able to enjoy significantly enhanced benefits of digital television.” Senator Conroy said.

Talking set-top boxes are designed to help the blind or vision impaired to navigate electronic program guides, onscreen menus and settings of their television.

Text-to-speech technology is used to describe programs, menu items and menu layouts, and includes capabilities to change the style of the speech and a ‘key learn’ mode for the remote.

“This kind of technology has been developed in other countries, however, no talking set-top box was available in the Australian market until now,” Senator Conroy said.

“Today’s announcement coincides with Queensland Disability Action Week and marks a significant achievement for the Government and industry to make digital TV accessible to all Australians.”

The Government worked closely with industry in the development of the talking set-top box technology in Australia and recently carried out a trial as part of the Household Assistance Scheme rollout in regional Victoria.

“The talking set-top box trial was designed to test this innovative technology with vision impaired Victorians,” said Senator Conroy. “I am delighted to see this initiative result in the commercial release of a talking set-top box to the broader Australian community.”

The Household Assistance Scheme provides free help for maximum rate pensioners to switch to digital TV, with more than 50,000 eligible households already assisted in regional South Australia, Victoria and Queensland. Following the successful technical trial, the Government is now considering operational and funding requirements to provide talking set-top boxes as part of the Scheme.

“Australia is striding forward in the global migration to digital TV with 82 per cent of households across the nation already converted to digital TV,” Senator Conroy said.

“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that no-one is left behind in the switch to digital-only television.”